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Features

E'town woodworker's furniture drawing raves


Susan Pfeiffer carves a design on a bass wood lid at her shop in Elizabethown. Her work is showing through the end of the month at Louisville's Kentucky Museum of Arts and Design, where her work can be regularly seen and purchased.

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BY SARAH J. BAKER

Woodworker Susan Pfeiffer's furniture offers more than a place to sit or a drawer to stash away odds and ends. For Pfeiffer, furniture is art.

Several pieces of the furniture she's built are on display at the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Design, where she's been named August's artist of the month. The collection includes a series of three-drawer chests, just 19 inches high and a few tables and chairs.

The Artist of the Month series spotlights established artists' new, different work, said Jennifer Montgomery of the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Design.

She said Pfeiffer, who has exhibited work at the museum before, has been concentrating on smaller pieces, such as the three-drawer chests that anchor the show.

"They're really quite exquisite and we wanted to highlight that," Montgomery said of the "treasure chests."

Pfeiffer took up wood working in college 20 years ago. But, as an artist, she had been laying low since she started teaching art at Radcliff Middle School in 1995. About a year ago, she began devoting more time to designing and building furniture.

"It's a gift, or talent, whatever you want to call it," Pfeiffer offered. "And it's something I can't give up."

As every piece, the chests currently on display started as a doodle. Pfeiffer said she started cutting once her scribbles produced the shape she was looking for a slightly arched top, rounded sides and chunky feet.

While crafting the wood, Pfeiffer figures out the details, such as the chest's drawer pulls, which are made from two kinds of wood, so they look striped.

After seven months, she'd completed the batch of seven treasure chests just in time for the show's opening earlier this month.

Other pieces in the show include a modern but comfortable five-foot tall upholstered chair made from maple wood and a coffee table featuring two interlocked horse heads carved into basswood. The design was carved with such detail that every lock of their manes stands out.

"It was so enjoyable," Pfeiffer said of the carving stretched across the table. "You just sit down, watch Oprah and carve away. It's almost therapeutic."

Since she reinforced her woodworking career a year ago, Pfeiffer spends much of her after-school hours in the

woodworking shop next to her Elizabethtown home. Most of the shop houses tabletop workspaces and tools. She

stores finished pieces in one corner room and set up an office in the other. Off to the side, a futon, television and variety of Swiss gouges complete her carving space.

Montgomery said Pfeiffer's work blends artistic expression and functionality, which can be a difficult task.

"She's one artist who has really mastered that," Montgomery said.